When it comes to reacting versus responding, far too many of us are reacting to life instead of responding. It’s too easy to feel like we have no other option but to throw in the towel on our parenting, tap out on our marriage, and retreat from our friendships.
Life often reminds me of those action-packed shows my husband watches.
You know the ones.
Someone runs onto a battlefield, screaming some crazy battle cry, unprotected from the bullets that breeze by, while you cringe and cry, “NO! Don’t do it!”
That’s how I feel when I watch women running out onto the battlefield, crying some crazy mantra or latest fad quote, unprotected while the enemy is taking shots at them and their family!
Truthfully, that’s exactly how I look more times than I’d like to admit.
A few weeks ago, I sat talking with my cello instructor about all the hats we wear as women. We were talking about the emotional toll that life can take on us if we live in this reactive state. We both shared the lessons we’ve learned on how to handle full lives.
Friends, there is a lot of conversation about living in the moment, being present, and living intentionally. I even travel to speak on the subject, but the reality is we can’t do any of these things if we’re living life like a ping pong ball bouncing from one crisis or task to the next.
That’s when I have to tell myself, “Stop. Slow down, and stop reacting to life.”
Reacting versus Responding
How can we know the difference?
First, we have to acknowledge there is a difference between the two. We can’t treat reactions and responses as synonyms in our thought process, language, or actions.
According to Psychology Today, “A reaction is typically quick, without much thought, tense and aggressive. A response is thought out, calm and non-threatening.”
Once we clearly define the difference between reactions and responses we need to learn how to incorporate thoughtful responses in our daily tasks.
How to become more responsive and less reactive.
Learning this life skill can take a good part of our life, and while we’ll get better over time that’s no excuse for us not to pursue growth in this area each day.
I’ve developed a three-step process for me to consider as I grow in this area of responsiveness, maybe it will be helpful for you too.
Let’s start with the power of processing.
I define processing as the act of slowing down (sometimes even removing myself from the situation) to consider and test my thoughts and actions against the will of God. When I take this time to consider MY thoughts and MY actions compared to taking time to steam over someone else’s words or actions it helps me quiet my heart and respond instead of reacting.
James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
Proverbs 21: 23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.
Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
Science agrees. Dr. Henry Cloud shares, “ Neuroscience shows us that if you just take a moment to identify what you are feeling, especially in a frustrating situation or relationship, and name that emotion, it can mean all the difference in the world … The reason is that labeling a feeling brings brain functioning to a much higher level … engages other parts of yourself vs. your “reactive” brain which will usually get you into trouble at such moments. But to stop, look inward, observe yourself, and label what you are feeling, slows down the reaction and gives you lots of other resources to choose a better response.”
The power of Prayer
There’s no sense of processing a situation or a relationship if I’m not processing in prayer and mindfulness of the will of God. Believe me; my flesh doesn’t need more time to “process.” However, I am always rewarded when I take more time in prayer and reading the Word. It slows my actions and clarifies my thoughts. The process of prayer creates a more responsive nature in me.
Daniel 9:18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.
Phillippians 4:5-7 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Psalm 34:15 The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
The Power of Purpose
Living a purposeful life may appear to some that we are too slow when the truth is, we’re deliberate, thoughtful, and responsive. Responsive women know the dangers of an action chosen or a word spoken in haste.
We also know the power of our words the depths of our influence that can cross the boundaries of time and impact generations not yet born.
Because of our awareness, we choose to be responsive women who have first spent time with God before we speak or act.
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. ~ Proverbs 10:19
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise. ~ Proverbs 12:15
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. ~ Proverbs 15:1
Friends, learning to respond instead of reacting is difficult for many of us. It can be challenging to respond appropriately in the midst of critical moments. I’m confident we’ll only get better at it once we spend time with the Lord in prayer and the study of His Word.
Before we close today, I want to invite you to join me on the blog for the next few weeks while I continue to share on this topic. We will be discussing the women in Scripture who chose responsiveness instead of reactiveness and what we can learn from their lives. I hope you’ll join me and share your comments and thoughts as well.
May we each grow in this area of responsiveness and reflect the character of God- All for His glory and our good!
With much love,